This lobster fra diavolo is made with spaghetti that’s tossed in a spicy tomato sauce with lobster, white wine, and chile pepper. Easy, elegant, and so very impressive.
I remember eating lobster fra diavolo at Italian restaurants as a kid. Back then, lobster fra diavolo meant lobster with red sauce and a lot of crushed red pepper flakes. After I trained as a chef, it seemed just putting lobster pieces in tomato sauce wasn’t much of a step up from serving the precious meat with ketchup. So I thought about how bouillabaisse is made, by using shellfish to flavor the tomato and wine sauce, and proceeded from there. A classic southern Italian wine, such as Taurasi or Salice Salentino, would certainly work well with this.–Mark Strausman
What does “fra diavolo” mean?
“Fra diavolo” means “brother devil” in Italian and refers to the heat of the crushed red chile pepper. Worry not, though. It’s more a gentle teasing type of heat rather than a can’t-taste-anything-else-for-two-days type of heat.
How to Crack Open a Lobster
☞ Table of Contents
Lobster Fra Diavolo
- Two (2-pound) live lobsters*
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves smashed
- 1 pound spaghetti or linguine
- 1 dried Italian hot red pepper split lengthwise, or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups canned crushed Italian plum tomatoes preferably San Marzano, undrained
- 4 anchovy fillets chopped
- 2 teaspoon dried oregano preferably Sicilian
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Place the lobsters in the freezer for 30 minutes.
- Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat for the pasta.
- While the water comes to a boil, turn each chilled lobster on its back and, using a large knife, split it lengthwise down the middle. Spread open the lobster bodies and tails but do not remove the meat from the shells. Remove the eyes and antennae and scrape out the digestive sac, reserving the tomalley and roe, if desired.
- Place a large Dutch oven or other wide pot over medium heat. When the pot is hot, add the olive oil. Add the garlic and stir until golden, about 2 minutes.
- Add the hot pepper and lobsters to the garlic and oil, cut side down, and cook until the shells turn red and the lobster meat is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. (You may need to cook the lobsters in batches.) Remove the lobsters from the pot.
- Meanwhile, add the salt and pasta to the boiling water, stir, and cook until al dente.
- Add the wine and tomatoes to the garlic and oil and bring to a simmer. Add the anchovies, oregano, and tomalley and roe, if desired, and stir well. Simmer, uncovered, until the sauce has thickened, 6 to 7 minutes.
- Taste the sauce and season with more dried pepper to taste. Add the lobster shells and meat to the sauce, and gently simmer until the lobster is cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat.
- Move the lobsters to a plate and either reserve to serve atop the pasta, or remove the lobster meat from the shells, chop it, and stir it into the sauce.
- Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
- Add the pasta to the sauce and toss. If a thinner sauce is desired, add some of the reserved pasta cooking water, a little at a time. Pile the pasta onto a platter and sprinkle with the parsley. If you didn’t incorporate the lobster into the sauce, arrange it on top of the pasta. Serve family-style.
*What You Need To Know If You Just Can’t Bring Yourself To Kill A LobsterWe understand. Just substitute a couple of fully cooked, shell-on lobster tails, found at your local seafood counter, for the whole lobsters. No judgement here.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I loved this pasta. The lobster turned out perfectly and the blend of wine, tomatoes, and seafood with a pinch of heat is perfect. The sauce isn’t too acidic, as some tomato sauces can be, and the lobster is the real star. The pasta came together very quickly and is impressive enough to serve to company.
I did make a change in this recipe procedure, though, by using 6 lobster tails. (I just couldn’t bring myself to dispatch a live one.) I loved the ease in making the sauce in the same pot as the lobster. The juices from the lobster add that extra flavor to the sauce and the anchovies melt right in, adding additional savoriness.
I did omit the oregano and increase the parsley a bit, and though this pasta is perfect as-is, if I were to make another small change, it would be to increase the amount of tomato sauce. I’d go so far as to double the amount of tomatoes and proceed with the recipe as-is.
This is a fabulous winter preparation for lobster! The sauce was sweet with just the right kick from the pepper flakes while the anchovies added great depth.
It was fairly easy to prepare—although finding a cooking vessel large enough to sauté the lobsters can be a challenge. (I set a roasting pan over 2 burners and that did the trick.)
This dish made a fine centerpiece for a small dinner party, served with a salad and bread, with sliced blood oranges and cara cara oranges and mint for dessert.
I couldn’t find lobster so I decided to use spot prawns instead. I followed the instructions pretty much as-written, except for after sautéing the shrimp, I bundled the shrimp shells into a cheesecloth and threw that into the pan and then poured the wine over and let it cook briefly before adding the remaining ingredients. The results were delish—both my husband and I thought that it could have passed for lobster had we not known. The texture of the prawns and the flavor from the shells in the sauce really helped this along.
The other plus about this recipe was that the sauce wasn’t acidic, which some tomato sauces can be. The addition of the wine really helps that from happening.
This will be a repeat recipe in our house, especially if I can find fresh lobster. I’ll also try it with fresh Dungeness crab when the season is right.
Originally published February 9, 2011